Finding Ways to Be More Human with Jen Pastiloff

 

Thank you THRIVE GLOBAL for publishing my article about Jen Pastiloff’s book: On Being Human.

Jennifer Pastiloff’s book, On Being Human, resonated with me so much that I could hear parts of it repeating in my head. At one point, she recounts her mother saying to her, “If you keep doing what Jenny Jen P has always done, you’ll keep getting what Jenny Jen P has always gotten.” If you want something different, the big question is “now what?” Her book is about finding the ways to be ready to see where you are stuck and being inspired to make the changes for your challenges.

My senior year of high school, I remember being asked to write my obituary and it felt odd. We were meant to imagine if we met our future goals by the time we died. I had never been to a funeral and it seemed like that would only happen so far in my future.

But for Jennifer Pastiloff, it was not foreign. She spent much of her young life thinking about death and obituaries. Her father died when he was 38 years old, and ten years later her step-father, Frank, died when he was 39 years old, days before she was meant to graduate from high school. She never expected to live long enough to make it past 38.

It would be decades before she opened herself to her grief, and along the way she struggled with depression, anorexia, chronic ear infections, distorted hearing and hearing loss. She was constantly told to “pay attention,” but no one asked why she wasn’t. 

She shares this journey in her book explaining, “I have spent my whole life trying to hide who I was, trying to hide my clinical depression and my hearing loss and my swallowed grief and the fact that I was a college dropout and that I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life.” In her workshops, there is no hiding. She asks everyone to show up, be fall-in-loveable and be themselves. She questions at every session: “How do we find light when we think we belong to darkness?”

I loved when she said: “We are not our bullshit stories, we are not the size of our thighs, we are not things we spoke as a child, we are not our depression, we are not our disabilities, we are not the lies other people have told us about ourselves. We are love.” In order to move forward, we have to stop listening to our fear.

I remember when I showed up to go sky diving as part of 50 challenges I did before I was 50 and talking to my tandem-instructor about scuba diving with sharks. He told me that was far too scary and he would never ever do that. I looked at him in shock. I said, “You get paid every day to jump out of a perfectly well-maintained airplane.” It was the first time I realized what Pastiloff talks about “how we’re all scared of something… How so many of us can do what we thought was impossible. We can start over. We can heal. We can feel. We can live with heartbreak.” Depending on what is familiar to us and our experiences, different things are scary to different people.

Through her personal stories of years of awful jobs and terrible relationships, hearing loss and food issues, Pastiloff shows her bravery to want something more. She asks for help and starts a yoga teacher training class. She is willing to take a risk and leads a yoga retreat in Mexico. She sees a therapist and starts to take anti-depressants.

Pastiloff draws from other cultures including Japan, where “there is a custom for repairing broken pottery called kintsugi. The method emphasizes fractures and breaks instead of hiding them. I began to think of myself as that pottery. Maybe I wasn’t ruined.” As she realizes she has value and can take up space, she thinks about “Who would you be if nobody told you who you were? Because no one is just a mom, just a waitress, just a girl, just a yoga teacher.”

Pastiloff asks each of us to imagine that we are already whole and believe that our dreams can come true. I loved when she talked about how “the moon is never missing any of itself. We just can’t see it. People are like that, too.” It appears throughout the month that the moon disappears but it is always still there.

Whether she was teaching at Canyon Ranch or on Good Morning America, she often had to be fearless-ish. She did not know if she could do something new but she felt scared and did it anyway.

My favorite thing that she talked about was to “Give Yourself a Fucking Medal (No One Will Do It for You).” As Pastiloff explains, “My whole life I had been waiting for permission, waiting to be discovered, waiting to be acknowledged, chosen, given permission to take up space. All my life I had been waiting for someone to tell me I was enough. But you have to do all the hard work of loving yourself yourself. What will you give yourself a fucking medal for?” 

We all want to be fall-in-love-able and fearless-ish. We want more. The way to have courage is to ask for help and to allow yourself to receive it.

Pastiloff recounts a story of a yoga teacher who did not understand her hearing issues and says, “I knew that you could never know what’s going on with someone. How many times had people judged me because they thought I simply was not listening when really I had an invisible disability? How many times had I judged someone in the past? I promised myself to not shame anyone for looking around too much and “not being present” when in reality they might be deaf. I wish I had said to the teacher, “Will you help show me the way? Or shame me for looking?

What will you choose in your relations with yourself and others? Will you give yourself a medal or hide? Will you stay stuck refusing to recognize your limitations or find ways to shoot for the stars?

During COVID19, mask wearing presents new challenges for Jen Pastiloff, so now her mask says, “I read lips.” What if we all wore masks that showed the help we need. What would your mask say?

Join Josh Radnor, Azure Antoinette, and Jen Pastiloff on Sunday August 2nd for a two-hour “On Being Human” workshop. You will write, listen, move, and open your heart. You will not only find your voice but also use it! What will happen? There will be gentle movement, inspiring writing prompts, meditation, illuminating conversation with a little bit of magic, and a lot of humor. 

Thank you THRIVE GLOBAL for publishing my article about Jen Pastiloff’s book: On Being Human.

Lisa Ellen Niver

Lisa Ellen Niver is an award-winning travel expert who has explored 102 countries and six continents. A graduate of the University of Pennsylvania, she worked on cruise ships for seven years and backpacked for three years in Asia. She is the founder of the website WeSaidGoTravel which is read in 235 countries and was named #3 on Rise Global’s top 1,000 Travel Blogs. Niver is represented by Chip MacGregor of MacGregor Literary, Inc. With more than 150,000 followers across social media, she has hosted Facebook Live for USA Today 10best, is verified on Twitter and listed on IMDb, and is the Social Media Manager for the Los Angeles Press Club. You can find Lisa Niver talking travel on broadcast television at KTLA TV Los Angeles, Satellite Media Tours, The Jet Set TV and Orbitz travel webisodes as well as her YouTube channel, where her WeSaidGoTravel videos have over 1.6 million views. After three months on TikTok, Instagram Reels, Facebook Reels and YouTube Shorts, she had over 500,000 (1/2 million) views. As a journalist, Niver has interviewed Deepak Chopra, Olympic medalists, and numerous bestselling authors and been invited to both the Oscars and the United Nations. She has been a judge for the Gracie Awards for the Alliance of Women in Media, and has run 15 travel competitions on her website, publishing over 2,500 writers and photographers from 75 countries. For her print and digital stories as well as her television segments, she has been awarded three Southern California Journalism Awards and two National Arts and Entertainment Journalism Awards and been a finalist twenty times.   Niver has published more than 2000 articles, in more than three dozen magazines and journals including National Geographic, Wired, Teen Vogue, HuffPost Personal, POPSUGAR, Ms. Magazine, Luxury Magazine, Smithsonian, Sierra Club, Saturday Evening Post, AARP, AAA Explorer Magazine, American Airways, Delta Sky, enRoute (Air Canada), Hemispheres, Jewish Journal, Myanmar Times, BuzzFeed, Robb Report, Scuba Diver Life, Ski Utah, Trivago, Undomesticated, USA Today, TODAY, Wharton Magazine, and Yahoo. Awards National Arts and Entertainment Journalism Awards 2021 Winner: Book Critic: Ms. Magazine “Untamed: Brave Means Living From the Inside Out” 2019 Winner: Soft News Feature for Film/TV: KTLA TV “Oscars Countdown to Gold with Lisa Niver” 2019 Finalist for: Soft News, Business/Music/Tech/Art Southern California Journalism Awards 2022 Finalist: Book Criticism 2021 Winner: Technology Reporting 2021 Finalist: Book Criticism 2020 Winner: Print Magazine Feature: Hemispheres Magazine, “Painter by the Numbers, Rembrandt” 2020 Finalist: Online Journalist of the Year, Activism Journalism, Educational Reporting, Broadcast Lifestyle Feature 2019 Finalist: Broadcast Television Lifestyle Segment for “Ogden Ski Getaway” 2018 Finalist: Science/Technology Reporting, Travel Reporting, Personality Profile 2017 Winner: Print Column “A Journey to Freedom over Three Passovers” Social Media Presence YouTube Channel: We Said Go Travel (1.6 million views) Short form video:TikTok, Instagram Reels, Facebook Reels, YouTube Shorts Twitter: lisaniver (90,000 followers) Instagram: lisaniver (24,000 followers) Pinterest: We Said Go Travel (20,000 followers and over 70,000 monthly views) Facebook: lisa.niver (5,000 followers); We Said Go Travel (3,000 followers) LinkedIn: lisaellenniver (9000 contacts)

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